Last weekend, on his BBC Radio 2 show “Pick of the Pops”, Paul Gambaccini played the UK chart from 1968, 52 years ago. “The Legend of Xanadu” by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich was at #1, having just replaced “Cinderella Rockafella” by Esther and Abi Ofarim. “Lady Madonna” by The Beatles was the highest new entry, at #11, and it would top the charts the following week. (The show is available for another 25 days here, on the BBC website.)
Back in 2016 I wrote this piece, with a challenge to list the girls’ names that have appeared in song titles that reached #1 here in the UK. The answers included both Cinderella and Madonna, from their chart-topping appearances in March 1968. During 1968 as a whole, more songs containing girls’ names topped the UK charts than in any other year, five in all. There were three in 1957, but there have been no more than two in any other year. Songs that reached #1 or were “Stuck at 2” are the focus of much of the pop trivia on this site, but listening to “Pick of the Pops” I was struck by how many other songs in that chart from March 1968 contained girls’ names.
- In the week that “Cinderella Rockafella” was at #1, the songs at numbers 4, 5 and 6 also contained girls’ names: “Rosie” (Don Partridge), “Delilah” (Tom Jones) and “Jennifer Juniper” (Donovan).
- The following week, while Dave Dee, Dozy and co were at #1, the rest of the top four consisted of “Cinderella Rockafella”, “Delilah” and “Rosie”. “Jennifer Juniper” was still at #6.
- The week after that, when “Lady Madonna” reached #1, “Delilah” was at #2 and “Cinderella Rockafella” was at #4. (Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay” was at #3.) “Rosie” had slipped to #7 and “Jennifer Juniper” to #9, so five of the nine best-selling singles from that week contained girls’ names.
As far as I can tell, March 1968 was the only time that there has been such a high concentration of girls’ names in the UK Top 10. I have checked every week that a girl’s name appeared in the title of the UK’s #1 single and can confirm that in every case there were always fewer than five girls’ names in the UK Top 10 overall.
Apart from March 1968 there have only been two occasions when the UK’s Top Two singles both contained girls’ names:
- December 1957: “Mary’s Boy Child” (Harry Belafonte) at #1 and “Wake Up Little Susie” (Everly Brothers) at #2.
- February 2007: “Grace Kelly” (Mika) and “Ruby” (Kaiser Chiefs) occupied the Top Two spaces for three weeks. “Grace Kelly” was #1 for the first two of those weeks, and then “Ruby” took over. It is the only time that a song containing a girl’s name has replaced another such song at the top of the UK charts.
Here are the only other instances I can find of two songs containing girls’ names both appearing in the Top Three:
- October 1968: “Hey Jude” (The Beatles) at #2, “Jezamine” (The Casuals) at #3 for one week. [Although “Hey Jude” was reportedly written for Julian Lennon, I allow it in the list of girls’ names, as well as in the list of boys’ names, contained in #1 song titles.]
- December 1968: “Lily the Pink” (Scaffold) at #2, “Eloise” (Barry Ryan) at #3 for one week.
- November 1972: “Clair” (Gilbert O’Sullivan) at #2, “Donna” (10cc) at #3 for one week, then “Clair” at #1, “Donna” at #3 for one week.
The following examples don’t count because the words “Rose”, “Grace” and “May” are not being used as names in these song titles:
- April 1971: “Bridget the Midget” (Ray Stevens) at #2, “Rose Garden” (Lynn Anderson) at #3.
- May 1972: “Amazing Grace” (The Pipes & Drums & Military Band of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards) at #1, “Come What May” (Vicky Leandros) at #2.
While we’re at it, this is the only example I can find where the chart-topping single contains a girl’s name and the song at #2 contains a boy’s name:
- November 1961: Little Sister / (Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame (Elvis Presley) at #1, “Big Bad John” (Jimmy Dean) at #2. [As you can see, I do allow names contained inside parentheses even if they’re not in the main part of the song’s title.]
Two final observations from trawling through all this chart trivia.
Here’s the only example I can find of boys’ names appearing in both of the Top Two singles:
- July 1985: “Frankie” (Sister Sledge) at #1, “Axel F” (Harold Faltermeyer) at #2, for three weeks.
And speaking of “Axel F”, here’s the only example of a single that contains a boy’s name replacing a single containing a girl’s name at the top of the UK charts:
- May 2005: “Axel F” (Crazy Frog) replaces “Lyla” (Oasis) at #1. [“Lyla” dropped from #1 to #6 that week.]